News / Africa

Abortion Weighs Heavily in Reproductive Rights Debate

Pregnant women watch television as they wait to give birth in the pre-natal ward at Princess Christian Maternity Hospital in Freetown, Sierra Leone (September 2010 file photo).
Pregnant women watch television as they wait to give birth in the pre-natal ward at Princess Christian Maternity Hospital in Freetown, Sierra Leone (September 2010 file photo).
Joe DeCapua

It’s estimated there are more than 45 million abortions worldwide every year. Reproductive rights advocates say more than half are unsafe, causing many injuries and deaths among young women. They say protecting adolescent women should be part of the development agenda. The issue was discussed at an event at a Washington think tank.

Many unintended, many unsafe

Leila Hessini is director of community mobilization at Ipas, an NGO working to end preventable deaths and injuries from unsafe abortions. She spoke at a recent event at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington, DC.

“Every year, there are 87 million unintended pregnancies. So this is 41 percent of all pregnancies. And this is really a figure that we need to unpack and understand because so much contributes to that. It’s about unmet need for contraception. It’s about sexual violence. It’s about contraception being unaffordable. So there are a lot of reasons that go into this,” she said.

Hessini said 33 million of the unintended pregnancies are among women using contraceptives. She says that means either a failure of the contraceptive itself or in the way in which it’s used.

“Every year there are 46 million abortions. Half of these, 21.6 million, are unsafe. The vast majority of these unsafe abortions are in the Global South. They’re in developing countries. And 30 to 60 percent of adolescent pregnancies end in abortion,” she said.

In sub-Saharan African countries, a high percentage of deaths from unsafe abortions are among adolescent women.

Abortions take place in countries where laws range from allowing easy access to no access at all.

Hessini said, “Forty percent of the world’s women live in countries where abortions are available, what we say, on request. Even though there’s always, as we know, different limitations and restrictions to abortion. Another 26 (percent) live in countries where abortion is only available to save a woman’s life or is prohibited altogether. And those you who follow the abortion debates know that abortions are totally prohibited in certain countries like Nicaragua, El Salvador, Chile, Dominican Republic, Malta and the Vatican City.”

Protection of women needed

Jennifer Redner, a consultant for the International Women’s Health Coalition, said too often basic rights are not protected.

“In too many places, the fundamental right of every woman and girl to control her body simply isn’t recognized. For a girl, control over her body and her sexual life requires more than access to health services. Her most basic human rights – freedom from violence, discrimination and coercion – must be protected both in their own right and to enable her access to services,” she said.

Redner said solutions to the problems are not new. They just haven’t been fully implemented.

“Multi-sectoral programming that works with adolescent girls and their communities to address the multiple barriers that girls face accessing health services, attending school, preventing early marriage, preventing violence and building the economic assets of girls will contribute to our collective goals of ensuring that girls can safely transition to adulthood and can be economically productive members of their community,” she said.

Fiercely debated

Abortion, whether legal or illegal, safe or unsafe, remains a controversial, hotly debated and fought-over issue.

Taryn Hodgson is the international coordinator of the Christian Action Network based in Cape Town, South Africa.

She said, “Firstly, abortion is never safe, especially not for the baby, who is killed in the process. So whether it’s legal or illegal abortion is never safe for the baby. It’s also never safe for the woman. Statistics from the Elliott Institute, who’ve done peer reviewed research into post abortion issues, have found that at least over 60 percent of women are coerced into having abortions.”

She said that coercion comes from parents, husbands or boyfriends. Hodgson says consequences of having an abortion include depression, nightmares and grief. She added legal abortions do not lower maternal death rates.

“Maternal deaths can be prevented with adequate nutrition, basic health care and good obstetric care throughout the pregnancy at delivery and post-partum,” she said.

The Christian Action Network official said this is especially true in many African countries with poor health care systems. As for women having control over their own bodies, Hodgson said, “It’s not a question of whether she should have control over her body. She now has a child, not a choice. The issue of children’s rights, right from conception, needs to be addressed.”

South Africa legalized abortions in 1997. Hodgson says despite that there’s been an increase in illegal or back street abortions because the government has not cracked down on them. What’s more, she says, pills to induce abortion are now readily available on many street corners in South Africa.

She said abortion should be banned under all circumstances, adding that cases in which the mother’s life is in danger are rare. In that case, however, she said the doctor should try to save both lives and not choose who will live.

The Elliott Institute mentioned by Hodgson is in Springfield, Illinois. It says its strategy is to end abortion with compassion. And that the welfare of a mother and her unborn child are inseparable.

You May Like

Multimedia Obama Defends Immigration Action

Obama says with his executive action on immigration, enforcement resources will be focused on 'felons, not families; criminals, not children' More

US-Led Airstrikes in Syria Kill Over 900: Monitoring Group

British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says the toll includes more than 50 civilians, five of them women and eight of them children More

Report: Obama Broadens US Combat Role in Afghanistan

The New York Times says resident Barack Obama has signed a classified order extending the role of US troops in Afghanistan for another year More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
New Skateboard Defies Gravityi
X
November 21, 2014 5:07 AM
A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.
Video

Video Tensions Build on Korean Peninsula Amid Military Drills

It has been another tense week on the Korean peninsula as Pyongyang threatened to again test nuclear weapons while the U.S. and South Korean forces held joint military exercises in a show of force. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from the Kunsan Air Base in South Korea.
Video

Video Mama Sarah Obama Honored at UN Women’s Entrepreneurship Day

President Barack Obama's step-grandmother is in the United States to raise money to build a $12 million school and hospital center in Kogelo, Kenya, the birthplace of the president's father, Barack Obama, Sr. She was honored for her decades of work to aid poor Kenyans at a Women's Entrepreneurship Day at the United Nations.
Video

Video Gay Evangelicals Argue That Bible Does Not Condemn Homosexuality

More than 30 U.S. states now recognize same-sex marriages, and an increasing number of mainline American churches are blessing them. But evangelical church members- which account for around 30 percent of the U.S. adult population - believe the Bible unequivocally condemns homosexuality. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender evangelicals are coming out. Backed by a prominent evangelical scholar, they argue that the traditional reading of the bible is wrong.
Video

Video Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concerns

The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Mexico Protests Escalate Over Disappearances

Protests in Mexico over 43 students missing since September continue to escalate, reflecting growing anger among Mexicans about a political system they view as corrupt, and increasingly tainted by the drug trade. Mounting outrage over the disappearances is now focused on the government of President Enrique Pena Nieto, accused of not doing enough to end insecurity in the country. More from VOA's Victoria Macchi.
Video

Video US Senate Votes Down Controversial Oil Pipeline - For Now

The U.S. Senate has rejected construction of a controversial pipeline to transport Canadian oil to American refineries. The $5 billion project still could be approved next year, but it faces a possible veto by President Barack Obama. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, the pipeline has exposed deep divisions in Congress about America’s energy future.
Video

Video Can Minsk Cease-fire Agreement Hold?

Growing tensions between government troops and separatists in eastern Ukraine further threaten a cease-fire agreement reached two months ago in the Belarusian capital of Minsk. Critics of U.S. policy in Ukraine say it is time the Obama administration gives up on that much-violated cease-fire and moves toward a new deal with Russia. VOA's Scott Stearns has more.
Video

Video Chaos, Abuse Defy Solution in Libya

The political and security crisis in Libya is deepening, with competing governments and, according to Amnesty International, widespread human rights violations committed with impunity. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video US Hosts Record 866,000 Foreign Students

Close to 900,000 international students are studying at American universities and colleges, more than ever before. About half of them come from Asia, mostly China. The United States hosts more foreign students than any other country in the world, and its foreign student population is steadily growing. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Ferguson Church Grapples with Race Relations

Many white residents of Ferguson, Missouri, say they chose to live there because of the American Midwest community's diversity. So, they were shocked when a white police officer killed an unarmed black teenager in August – and shaken by the resulting protests and violence. Some local churches are leading conversations on how to go forward. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports.

All About America

AppleAndroid